How Remitly’s Matt Oppenheimer built a mobile-first remittance company

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Matt Oppenheimer is CEO of Remitly.

What is Remitly and where did you get the inspiration to found it?

Matt Oppenheimer - Remitly
Matt Oppenheimer, Remitly

Remitly is a mobile payments remittance service that is changing the way people send money internationally. I was working for Barclays in Kenya where I saw first-hand the challenges and strain on people trying to send money to family members overseas. We have taken careful steps since launching in 2012 to create a fast, reliable and transparent service.

Payments is getting really competitive — how is Remitly different?

Historically, remittance services have been defined by companies like Western Union and MoneyGram offering high and hidden fees, poor user experience, and limited mobile and web options. For years, tech companies have worked to erode the financial services industry. Remitly isn’t the first company to disrupt the status quo, but we are taking a very different approach from our peers. We’re putting our customers first but going super deep where the biggest addressable markets and pain points exist.

The typical software company in our industry counts vanity metrics such as the number of regions served. Our measures of success are different. We value customers above all else so we offer a great experience at a reasonable cost.

You provide service into 3 specific geos — why did you chose those? What goes into the decision about which corridor to service? Are you going to launch new corridors?

We purposely focus on three targeted corridors – India, the Philippines and Mexico – to get the product right and deliver on promises to customers. They are also three of the top five largest receive corridors in the world – U.S. to Mexico alone is the largest international remittance corridor. It takes a lot of work to perfect a money transfer between countries, regulators and financial institutions.  Now that we have this product, we’re scaling up globally and continuing to stay focused on the largest corridors where there are the most customers to serve.

How important is mobile in today’s remittance market?

It’s not just important, it’s critical. We built the first truly mobile-first remittance company. While others are trying to move offline businesses to the web, we focused first on mobile. We were the first to enable Touch ID for iOS users, we were the first remittance service with built-in messaging capabilities and we were the first and only service to provide an app for both the sender and receiver. Everything we’ve done with mobile has been in service of enabling easier and more meaningful experiences for our customers.

It’s important, however, to recognize when mobile fintech solutions are not solving customer pain points. One hype-filled example is mobile wallets: stored value accessed via a mobile device often built by carriers and banks. I offer one data point to cut through the hype: If you take a random set of 100,000 money transfer transactions at Remitly, roughly 19 of them will involve mobile wallets. That is a whopping 0.019 percent of our customers, generally tech-savvy folks who are using a mobile fintech service, who use the app to send money to mobile wallets.

What’s in the pipeline for 2016?

We’ve grown our company into the largest independent digital remittance firm in the U.S. and we’re committed to continue to grow our business and build new features into our product to enable deeper and better connections for our customers. In 2016 you can expect to see us open up new receive and send corridors and introduce new product features to our service.